Most people thought Lucky was a nickname, but for Lucky Baldwin it was actually the name his parents had given him. Not that he ever corrected the assumption when folks made it. He’d found that if people thought you were lucky, they were more likely to take a shine to you. ‘Sides, it wasn’t as if he were unlucky.
Far from it. I mean sure, you could say that there was nothing lucky about having your entire family massacred by Comanche Indians, but, on the other hand, he was the only one to survive. He always liked what his adopted father used to tell him with regards to luck. Luck was a matter of knowing how best to use a particular situation to one’s own advantage.
So, while he watched other youngsters run out and futilely try to attack the Comanche as they killed all the white folks, Lucky did as his Ma had told him and stayed hidden under the blankets until everyone was dead. Everyone but him and the Indians that is. Once they had put away all their weapons and started searching for loot, ten year old Lucky figured it was better to announce his survival to them rather than have it discovered.
He also figured that there wasn’t much point in crying or begging for sympathy since the men who were now laughing and drinking the wagon train’s whiskey were the same one’s that had just killed everyone in it. So, he took a couple of breaths, made sure he wasn’t going to cry, and then stood up in the back of the wagon.
He’d already figured out who the boss was among the Indian fighters. The boss was a giant of a man wearing a vest made out of an old horse blanket and a pair of old blue cavalry pants. He eyes were the darkest black that Lucky had ever seen and his skin just a shade lighter. His only adornment was a strip of yellow and red silk that was tied around his right arm. Most of the other fighters had a lot more decoration. The boss didn’t need it. He was decoration enough without it.
Lucky jumped down from the wagon before anyone noticed he was alive and managed to get within about six feet of the boss before he spoke.
“Senor,” Lucky said as confidently as he could, “I’d like you to teach me how to fight as well as you do, seein’ as how you just killed everyone I ever looked up to.” He gulped and stood his ground as a dozen Indians looked at him in varying degrees of surprise. The leader turned and looked at him.
The big man stared at him for a moment and then said “Aren’t you upset about that little white boy? That we just killed your family.”
Lucky was upset about it. It was silly to even consider otherwise, but he’d never really understood why people allowed their emotions to make a bad situation worse. Now was a good time to say so.
“Ain’t gonna do me no good to be upset about it, is it? On the other hand, you teaching me how to fight might actually help me out at some point later on so I don’t have to ever see the people around me dying again. ‘Sides, I’m part Injun too. My grandma was a Cherokee in North Carolina.”
The men around him laughed and the big man in front of him allowed a grin to slide across his face.
“When are you pale face ever gonna learn that before the white man came here, the Cherokee was the white man. Far as I can see, being Cherokee just makes you whiter, White Boy.”
The war chief stepped closer to him and put his big hand on top of Lucky’s head. He clenched his fist into Lucky’s red hair and lifted the boy off the ground.
“I think we should probably kill you now, it might be better for you to die a quick death than to suffer the way we do. Laughing Cactus, hand me that knife of yours.”
Lucky struggled not to make a sound as the big man spun him in a circle while suspending him by his hair. The laughter of the men kept him from crying out. Lucky figured if he were going to die, he would do it silently.
As he spun back in the other direction, he saw that the chief had the knife of Laughing Cactus in his hand now. He braced himself for the pain he knew was coming.
“What’s your name little white boy? The spirits will want to know before they let you into the Cherokee heaven where Jesus lives.” More laughter.
“I’m Lucky,” Lucky yelled. “Lucky God Damn Baldwin.”
The laughter became hysterical and he saw the knife flashing towards him in the sunlight. Then he found himself lying on the ground and looking up to where the chief held a handful of long red hair in one hand and a sharp knife in the other.
“I guess you are lucky. You’ve been scalped, but I seem to have missed the scalp part. I guess that means the Great Spirit wants you to stay with us. By the way, there’s no such thing as being lucky. It’s all about how you turn a situation to your advantage.” The Chief gestured expansively to the massacre around them.
Lucky never knew whether his new adopted father had missed him on purpose or because he was laughing and drunk. For that matter, he never figured much about what was going on in the mind of the man either. Was he referring to Lucky making the most of the situation or he and his braves making the most out of a situation? Maybe both.
Lucky looked up at him. “My name is Lucky. What’s your name, Senor? What should I call you?”
The Chief looked down at him with that big smile again. “My name? I’m Chief Little Bird and these are my band of Merry Robins, but I guess you should call me Dad.”